‘Gong Show’ Creator Chuck Barris Dead at 87

The Gong Show - Chuck Barris
Ron Tom/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Chuck Barris during Season 1 of The Gong Show

Chuck Barris, the famed television personality most noted as the original host of the wacky game show The Gong Show (1976-80), died Tuesday at age 87. His family says he died of natural causes at his home in Palisades, New York.

Barris’ genial, engaging and fun-loving personality lent itself well to the zaniness of The Gong Show, and was undoubtedly part of that program’s success in its first incarnation, and the fact that it has lived on in pop-culture references on shows like The Simpsons. (The Gong Show hasn’t done as well in the Barris-less attempts to remake it since; and ABC is planning another remake from Will Arnett’s production company). Even Barris, though, couldn’t save 1980’s The Gong Show Movie, an odd and unsuccessful attempt to translate a game show to the big screen, a film he also directed.

Prior to The Gong Show, Barris had also made a name for himself in the game show realm as creator of The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game.

Barris’ creative skills extended into music, too. He created the memorable themes for The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, and also wrote the song “Palisades Park,” which became a hit for Freddy Cannon in 1962.

Beyond his prolific creative career, if Barris’ 1984 autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, is to be believed, he also worked as a CIA assassin. The spy agency has denied this, but the story was intriguing enough for Barris’ book to be made into a spy-comedy feature film in 2002, with George Clooney directing and Sam Rockwell starring as Barris.